On a warm Kentucky day in May 1998 a chestnut filly foal with a white star on her face was born to the Australian-bred thoroughbred mare Zodiac Miss The filly was named Azeri which is the language or a person of Azerbaijan although she was named for the aviation check point at Baku in that country according to her aerospace magnate owner and pilot Allen E. Paulson. Paulson who also bred the magnificent Cigar, could have no idea how this little filly would conquer the world of racing bringing riches and prestigious titles with her along the way. Sadly he would never know as he died before he had the chance to see Azeri run. She was the only progeny of Zodiac Miss who actually trained on and started on the racetrack.
Azeri was not an obvious superstar from the get go, not particularly eye catching, she did not make a lot of money at the sales and was actually bought back into Paulson’s ownership again. There is an old horseman’s expression which is “handsome is as handsome does” and what she lacked in looks she made up for with her winner mentality and speed – attributes that come rarely in the world of racing. She showed an amazing pace on the gallops and her stamina, bravery and commitment completed the package all great racehorses possess.
She won her first race at Santa Anita as a three year old and the pattern was set for the rest of her racing career. Under the talented female trainer Laura de Seroux she notched up eleven consecutive victories with 2002 being an exceptional year out of a series of magnificent years. That she had Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith on board this winning year was a bonus. Azeri won several major titles including; Clement L. Hirsch Handicap; Lady’s Secret Breeder’s Cup Handicap; Apple Blossom Handicap and the coveted Horse of The Year title. At this stage, she had only run against other fillies. In the racing world it is believed that colts are stronger and more athletic and it does seem that it takes an exceptional filly to beat the odds in mixed races. Azeri was one of these exceptions and raced against colts with moderate success later in her career.
Azeri suffered a tendon injury before her 12th race and her trainer Laura de Seroux did not think she would come back from it and recommended her retirement to breeding but the owners Allen E.Paulson Living Trust decided to train her on with D.Wayne Lukas and the filly recovered and went on to win another Breeders title and the American Champion Older Female Horse in 2002, 2003 and 2004. Over the course of three years racing Azeri accumulated over 4 million dollars in prize money making her the all time female money earner in the USA, a record she held until 2011 when she was overtaken by Zenyatta.
In 2004 Azeri was retired to stud and after breeding a couple of foals for the Allen Paulson Living Trust she was sold to Japan where she continues to breed. She has produced colts and fillies that have made their debut on the race track, but none to date have quite followed in their dam’s glittering hoof prints.
Azeri in the 2003 Apple Bloosom at Oaklawn
Azeri in the 2002 Breeders Cup Distaff at Arlington
Azeri in the 2004 Spinster at Keeneland (Her Last Victory, Pat Day Jockey)